Brescia president makes racist remark to Mario Balotelli; club calls it a 'misunderstood joke'

Brescia president Massimo Cellino used Mario Barotelli's race to make what he called a "joke" about the player's absence in a match. (Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)

Brescia president Massimo Cellino made a racist remark about Mario Balotelli weeks after the star striker was the subject of racist abuse on the pitch. Balotelli did not play against Roma this weekend, and the club is deeming Cellino’s remarks “a joke” and a way to “protect the player.”

Brescia president makes racist remark to Balotelli

Balotelli was dropped from Sunday’s Serie A match, which Brescia lost to Roma 3-0, after a row with manager Fabio Grosso. Cellino then made the racist remark that spread Monday morning.

From the Associated Press:

Asked about Balotelli on Monday, Cellino said: “He’s black, what can I say, he’s working on clearing himself but he’s having a lot of difficulty.”

Balotelli, 29, has struggled since joining his hometown club over the summer. Brescia remains at the bottom of Serie A with just 12 points. In Grosso’s two games in charge, the club has allowed seven goals in two losses.

Grosso referenced Balotelli’s absence after the match. Via Reuters:

"I coach the team and he can play a leading role if he has the desire, determination and enthusiasm. I'm the one who decides or not whether that is the case."

Balotelli’s experience with racism in matches

It was only three weeks ago that Balotelli was the subject of racist abuse during a match against Hellas Verona. He picked up the ball and kicked it into the stands then threatened to walk off the pitch. Teammates and opponents appeared to console him and a yellow card was pulled out by the referee but not issued.

It’s hardly the only time Balotelli has suffered racist abuse, and it’s just one of the many racist instances in soccer this season alone.

President says it was ‘a joke’

Brescia released a statement soon after the remarks and said it was a joke that admittedly wasn’t received well. Translation from ESPN:

"Following the comments from president Massimo Cellino, in regards to our player Mario Balotelli, Brescia clarify it is quite clearly a joke, patently misunderstood, made in an attempt to de-dramatise an excessive media episode with the intention of protecting the player."

The Google translation says the club clarifies it as a “paradoxical joke.”

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